Athletes have been using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) for what seems like forever. The reward is the opportunity to achieve greatness beyond their usual capabilities, but the downside is the eternal shame of being labeled a ‘drug cheat’ (see Ben Johnson and Grace Jones for reference).
Cannabis has never really been included in the PED debate. After all, what kind of athletic prowess is an archetypal ‘stoner’ capable of? Quite a lot it would seem, as marijuana is NOT just for relaxing on the couch. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) certainly views the herb with suspicion, as it classifies cannabis as a banned substance in competition.
Slowly but surely, more athletes are discovering the many benefits of marijuana, including things like improved recovery and endurance capacity. If you happen to be in Los Angeles from March 31 – April 1, 2018, in fact, you’ll be treated to the 420 Games, which are a unique event to prove to the world that cannabis users are not lazy, unmotivated ‘stoners.’ So why are more athletes than ever before turning to marijuana?
You may be shocked to discover that marijuana is a go-to supplement for athletes in the ultra-endurance niche. According to ultra marathon expert Avery Collins, for example, cannabis helps enhance the experience of the races while also improving his performance. Don’t believe it? Collins has won a 200-mile race through the Rocky Mountains – a torturous feat that took him over 65 hours. How did he do it? He credits weed for helping him make it.
It is important to note, though, that Collins does NOT use weed during races, since doing so is illegal. And also, smoking pot is not the best way to reap the therapeutic benefits of cannabis for training purposes. Rather, Collins is a big fan of consuming CBD via transdermal patches and gels.
The Competitive edge
In competitive sports, athletes will do just about anything to get the competitive edge. For example, long-distance runners will brave ice baths and even drink pickle juice during a race to reduce the risk of cramps! Also, sleep is a critical part of recovery and marijuana unquestionably helps people sleep better, in addition to dulling the copious amounts of nerves that one may feel before a race.
What’s also fascinating is the suggestion that cannabis increases impulsive responses. In other words, it enables you to take greater risks without having to negatively affect your decision-making capabilities. Some other competitive benefits of cannabis include better vision, better concentration, and the ability to help athletes forget about previous traumatic experiences.
Pain Management & Recovery
This is probably where marijuana excels the most (I mean, who can forget the scene in Pumping Iron where Arnold Schwarzenegger puffs on a joint after winning Mr. Olympia in 1975?).
It’s anti-inflammatory properties are well known, and were referenced by Collins when he recently discussed his usage. After a long run, Collins (as you might imagine) feels intense pain in his legs in the form of heavy pounding and severe aching. At this stage, he likes to consume CBD, which he actually finds soothes the pain and allows him to recover and rest (the long-distance specialist is sponsored by Mary’s Medicinals and other marijuana sellers).
Another cannabis-endorsing athlete is former NFL player Eben Britton. According to him, over 50% of NFL players use cannabis. Also, along with 26 other ex-athletes from professional American sports leagues (including the NFL, NBA, and NHL), Britton was one of the original founders of “Athletes for Care,” which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping athletes achieve ‘natural wellness.’ It is a noble cause and an exceedingly relevant one when you actually consider the huge number of athletes who are addicted to opioid painkillers.
Riley Cote is another high-profile pot-promoting ex-athlete. He played in the NHL from 2002-2010, and is another founder of the Athletes for Care movement. During his career, he preferred to use marijuana to manage his severe and insistent pain, but every time he was on the road (which is about half of an NHL player’s career), he was forced to consume painkillers. During these occasions, he always felt worse and wished that he was allowed to use cannabis to better manage his symptoms.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at five other professional athletes who swear by cannabis:
1 – Ricky Williams
In many ways, Ricky Williams is the trailblazer for marijuana use amongst athletes. The former Heisman Trophy winner is best known for his time at the Miami Dolphins, where he became famous for his weed use. Williams was punished on numerous occasions for these supposed ‘infractions,’ but he refused to quit using the therapeutic remedy. Today, the retired NFL star is keeping busy and is a partner in the Power Plant Fitness gym, along with the guy who founded the 420 Games.
2 – Jake Plummer
Former pro-bowl quarterback Plummer is another NFL star who won’t keep quiet about his love of herb. Like virtually all NFL players, Plummer had to fight through a lot of pain (and is still fighting through pain), and was thus astonished at how well CBD worked for him in terms of therapeutic relief. Today, he’s an active spokesperson for the non-psychoactive compound!
3 – Nick Diaz
Everybody knows that UFC badass Nick Diaz is a warrior in the ring and owns a victory over Conor McGregor along with the joint record for most UFC Bonus Awards. However, not everyone knows about Diaz’s love of marijuana, or about the fact that he tested positive for the substance at UFC 183. He was given a crazy 5-year suspension at a time when Anderson Diaz was suspended for only a year for steroid use! The ban was ultimately reduced to 18 months, and the unapologetic Diaz says that he will continue using CBD oil as a means for better recovery times and reduced pain and soreness (incidentally, the USADA removed CBD from its list of banned substances in 2016).
4 – Ross Rebagliati
Although he isn’t a household name, snowboarding star Rebagliati makes this list because his love of marijuana initially cost him the ultimate prize: a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics. Fortunately, cannabis wasn’t on the list of banned substances, so he received his medal. Today, he operates Ross’ Gold, which is a medical cannabis company in Canada.
5 – Tanner Hall
Hall is a world-class freestyle skier, and he makes no bones about what marijuana does for him. According to Hall, he has an excessively “fast brain,” and marijuana helps to slow it down. Since the end of his pro skiing days, Hall has partnered with marijuana seller Black Rock Originals to launch a host of cannabis-based accessories including lighters, rolling papers, and grinders.
Final Thoughts on Athletes & Cannabis
Although marijuana doesn’t provide athletes with an unfair advantage like PEDs, it does offer an array of physical and mental benefits both during training and in competition. Regardless of whether you’re pumping iron in the gym or trying to conquer a marathon, it’s common knowledge that weed can focus your mind in the here and now.
CBD, in particular, is becoming popular because of the fact that it doesn’t get you stoned, and because its anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to enable athletes to recover faster. If you do decide to use cannabis in training, though, (you’re not allowed to use it in competition), be sure to consume it in edible form, as edibles are far better than either smoking or vaping, at least from an athlete’s standpoint.